Daniel May reflects on his recent tour of Life Science labs in Boston
Boston’s life science sector alone dwarfs that of the cumulative total that exists in the UK. Having visited the city last month with Cushman & Wakefield, the scale of current and future development continues to be astonishing. The infrastructure required to bring forward the Fenway Center, designed by Gensler, underlines the value of the end product.
With vast amounts of capital looking to be deployed into the development of laboratories in the UK, it is important to consider the wider ecosystem that surrounds life sciences and how important they are to the continued growth of the sector in the UK.
We have some of the finest academic institutions in the world, with an outstanding calibre of talent that produces an array of progressive and innovative research. The biggest challenge appears to be retaining the intellectual property of companies in the UK through their development and scale-up phases. During this critical period, the lure of access to funding opportunities (typically for Series B and C funding) provided by the mature markets of Boston or San Francisco seems too great to turn down – and there is very little evidence to suggest that these companies ever return to the UK once they have left.
Alongside funding, the UK will also need to expand its production, manufacturing, and distribution infrastructure capacity to ensure that the complete ecosystem is available to successful life science companies. Arguably this is a less glamourous component of the process but provides an area of potential growth for towns and cities that have good connections to the Golden Triangle. If the UK is to continue its trajectory as a major force in the sector we need to look beyond the labs and think about the whole package that we can offer.